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DIY Life

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    Trapped inside due to the snow? Bummed about a weekend without football? Channel your restlessness into winter home projects from around the web.

    winter home projectsPhoto: CasaSugar

    A drafty home can easily hike up your heating bill, but you have the power to keep the cold air out and your utility bills low. Seal up the leaky doors and windows in your home by crafting draft blockers (pictured), applying weatherstripping or using heavy-duty plastic to combat the chill. [CasaSugar]

    winter home projectsPhoto: Apartment Therapy

    By now you may have lapsed on some of your New Year's resolutions. But if organization was on your to-do list, you can rebound this weekend with a neat and tidy bedroom. Try doable projects to clean your mattress, clear the dust, organize your closet and freshen up your bedroom's style. No matter if you have 10 minutes or a whole weekend, learn the tricks that will tame the chaos once and for all. [Apartment Therapy]

    winter home projectsPhoto: The Kitchn

    Replacing an old faucet fixture is one of the easiest ways to give your bathroom or kitchen a brand-new look on a tight budget. Plus, the installation process won't leave a mess behind. From contemporary to tradition, there is a wide-range of faucet finishes and styles to satisfy your design tastes. [The Kitchn]

    Leaky faucet driving you crazy? Or maybe it's the clanking, squeaking sounds or blurting water flow? Popular Mechanics has the secrets to fixing bad-tempered faucets without calling a plumber. [Popular Mechanics]


    winter home projectsPhoto: This Old House


    After you've tackled that leaky faucet, turn your attention to fixing the nonstop trickling sound from your toilet. A runny toilet wastes gallons of water each day, but luckily, there's an easy fix. Use this guide to identify and eliminate the problem before it burns a hole in your wallet. [This Old House]


    winter home projectsPhotos: Copyright CICO Books, 2010

    Make your weekend a productive one by transforming an old chest of drawers into a stylish showpiece. ShelterPop's easy-to-follow instructions will have you sanding, painting and switching out old drawer pulls like a pro. [ShelterPop]

    winter home projectsPhoto: Houzz

    Sometimes a can of paint is all you need for a big impact. Paint the back of a cabinet or built-in unit to add a shot of color to any room. Take off a few cabinet doors for colorful open shelving. [Houzz]


    winter home projectsPhoto: Real Simple

    With the Super Bowl only a week away, now is not the time to drop the ball on your TV display. From recessed shelving to open cabinets, build the perfect media center that will give your party guests perfect views of all the pigskin action. [Better Homes & Garden]


    Over time, small cracks may show up on your home's wall surfaces. They're not pretty, but thankfully there's an easy way to repair. Scoop Spackle on a putty knife to cover the cracks. Once dry, sand the surface, and apply a coat of primer and paint. According to Real Simple, a pro would charge you $75 to complete this project. DIY it and it will only set you back $9.50 for supplies. [Real Simple]


    Don't give up on bathroom tile that's old, dirty and grimy. Fight icky mildew buildup by re-grouting your bathroom tile. [The Nest]

     

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    Tired of scrubbing stubborn stains? A smart combo of vinegar, baking soda and salt makes grime slide right off pots and pans, says our clever reader.

    When it comes to cooking, I've burned just about everything. My lack of culinary skills used to make washing scorched pots and pans a dreaded task, but that fear is a thing of the past. To remove stubborn stains, I now rely on my Grandmother's solution of vinegar, baking soda and salt.

    To get that blackened, baked-on grease off your cookware, first put the pot or pan on the stove. Add a tablespoon or two of salt and pour enough vinegar to cover an inch of the pot. Let it simmer over high heat, then add ¼ cup of baking soda. Reduce heat to medium.

    Once most of the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat and rinse cookware with water. Then watch in wonder as the stains and grime slide off with mild scrubbing! For exceptionally dirty pots, repeat the process for a stain-free finish.

    We want to hear your best DIY household tip related to cleaning, fixing, building or organizing. Head over to Seed.com to contribute your tip, and we may just buy it and publish it here!

     

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  • 02/10/11--09:13: Wall-Mount a TV
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    Gearing up for Super Bowl 2011? There's still time to wall-mount your flat panel TV before game time!

    wall mount a tvBrian Kelsey

    It's the thing you keep saying you're going to do, but somehow you still haven't gotten around to it. So what better time than the week leading up to Super Bowl 2011 to finally wall-mount your flat panel TV?

    All you need is a wall mount kit with a bracket that suits the size of your TV (most wall mount brackets come in size ranges) and a drill/driver to mount your TV to standard drywall. I used thick lag screws to secure my TV to wall covered in brick veneer.

    Click through the photo gallery as I take you through the step-by-step process, and you'll be prepared for kick back in time for kickoff.


     

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    Is your house ready for some football? Get your place prepared for your Super Bowl party with this short list of cleaning priorities.

    super bowl partyLew Robertson, Getty Images

    It's Super Bowl time, which means plenty of football, food and, of course, people in your home. For some party hosts, this also entails spending the hours before kickoff scurrying around and stressing out to get the house guest-ready.

    Instead of fumbling, try calling an audible: the "faking it" play. Forget the massive clean, and focus your energy on truly noticeable areas to create the illusion of a super pristine house. Here are the top five places where you can score the biggest points.

    junk mail on the counter, super bowl partyPhoto: Getty Images

    1. Clutter Zones
    Try to put things in their place or hide them out of sight.

    Why You Should Clean Them:
    The most noticeable mess for guests is visible clutter on your home's surfaces: countertops, tables, shelves, ledges, floors and so on. It's easy to grow accustomed to piles that have accumulated: board games, newspapers, mail, even useful appliances spread out over the counters. Over time, you don't even notice them -- but your guests certainly do.

    How to Clean Them:
    Be ruthless about paring down items on flat surfaces. A large expanse of clutter-free surface instantly gives the appearance of tidiness.

    If you don't have enough time to sort through the clutter, grab a container and scoop it all in. Stash the container in an area that you know guests won't see or enter, and deal with it later.

    When you have a little more time, find a basket, a box, a garbage bag, and a big envelope. Toss all your "put away" items in the basket, your "give away" items in a box (that you can later take to the thrift store), your garbage in the bag and your important papers, such as unpaid bills, in the envelope.

    2. The Entryway
    Even the grandest entryway can become a giant eyesore if it's cluttered.

    Why You Should Clean It:
    A clean entryway will make a welcoming first impression for your guests. Your collection of giant parkas and big pile of boots may be easily accessible, but your guests will see it as a big mess as soon as they walk through the door.

    How to Clean It:
    Tackle overstuffed coat closets. The ideal entryway closet should have a few things hung neatly, and spare hangers waiting to receive guest coats. Remove excess jackets and shoes, and store them somewhere your guests won't enter.

    super bowl partyPhoto: Getty Images

    3. Bathroom
    The bathroom may seem like daunting territory to tackle when time is tight, but giving it some attention is an important step toward making a good impression.

    Why Clean It:
    When guests are using the bathroom, they'll have little to do but contemplate your cleaning ritual and judge the grime in your sink, on your tiles, and under the toilet bowl seat.

    How to Clean It:
    Speed cleaning a bathroom is an art. First, clear the counter of any clutter. Use pre-moistened towelettes to wipe down the counter, sink and faucets. Do the same for the toilet, then give the bowl a solid scrub. Make sure that mirror is clean and streak-free. Finally, empty the garbage can and change the hand towels. Add a few natural reed diffusers or
    some fresh flowers for odor control.

    super bowl partyPhoto: Getty Images

    4. Floors and Furniture
    You'll want to pay close attention to the areas where your guests will be spending the most time.

    Why Clean Them:
    Your couch cracks don't have to be full of potato chip crumbs -- from last year's Super Bowl party -- to be noticeably dirty. Since guests will spend most of their time on your furniture, it's important to make sure these pieces are clean. Keep in mind that if seating is limited, some people might end up sitting on the floor, so clean floors will make an impact.

    How to Clean Them:
    Vacuum carpet and rugs, sweep and mop (or at least spot wash) hardwood floors and tile.
    Flip your couch cushions, vacuum between them and spray a fabric deodorizer if necessary. Have a few cushions and cozy throw blankets on hand for those who end up settling on the floor.

    remote control, super bowl partyPhoto: Getty Images

    5. Icky-Sticky 'Neglectables':
    Consider how your guests will be using your home, and what they'll be picking up.

    Why Clean Them:
    If a guest picks up the remote control, they'll notice right away what you may not see: grime in the crevices. The same goes for your fridge, which a helpful (or hungry and thirsty) guest is bound to open. A full fridge is acceptable, but last week's syrup dripping down the inside door is not. What about those coasters? Do they stick together from previously spilled drinks? Guests should not have to clean anything before using it.

    How to Clean Them:
    Create a list of items that your guests will use in the home. Zero in on those items that might need a little extra TLC. Most things can be cleaned relatively easily, as vinegar and hot water solutions work wonders on the extra sticky solutions. Microfiber cloths prove to be saviors in dusty jobs. Walk through your home and pick out the things your guests will be using. Give them a quick wipe as you go.




    SEE ALSO:
    Wood Floors: Cleaning, Fixing, Maintaining
    Super Bowl Table Decorations [Holidash]
    Cleaning Tips for Those Short on Time [Apartment Therapy]

     

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    As winter pounds down with record snowfalls, here are tips to make sure your snow blower is in top shape.

    If you live in an area where it snows, cleaning up and digging out after a heavy snowfall is a simple fact of life. Sure, shoveling is the traditional way to get the job done, but your back, shoulders, and legs may be pleading for an easier alternative. Plus, with record snowfall pounding many cities this winter, a snow blower is starting to look like a pretty good item to have -- even to the most enthusiastic shovelers.

    SNOW BLOWER TYPES
    Snow blowers come in three varieties: electric, single-stage and two-stage.

    snow thrower repair, snow blower troubleshootingPhoto: Troy-Bilt

    Electric Throwers
    Electric snow blowers are smaller and more compact than their gas-powered counterparts. Their design makes them easy to maneuver and ideal for clearing lighter snowfalls on smooth, paved surfaces, as well as small areas like walkways, patios and driveway aprons. When it snows a foot or more and you've got some serious real estate to clear, opt for single-stage and two-stage units.

    Single-Stage Throwers
    A single-stage unit is powered by a gasoline engine, but propelled by you. In other words, you push it into the snow; it throws the snow. They are particularly adept at clearing heavy, wet snow into tall piles. If you live in light-snow area, save money by buying a single-stage machine. It's smaller and lighter than two-stage units, which are more effective in heavy and packed snow.

    Two-Stage Throwers
    Two-stage units, like the Troy-Bilt Storm 2620, are the big dogs of winter. Their larger gasoline engines drive a bigger auger, eject more snow and drive the wheels in forward and reverse. They're heavier and take up more space when not in use. If you've got ground to cover, they've got the muscle to make it happen.

    SNOW BLOWER REPAIR ISSUES
    Even though we call on snow blowers to dig us out of trouble, they -- like any tool or machine -- can get thrown for a loop if things go wrong. Here's how to fix the common hiccups that occur with snow blowers:

    Engine Fails to Start
    If your snow blower won't start (and you've primed the motor), check to make sure the choke is in the proper position, the safety key is fully inserted, the tank has gasoline, and the spark plug isn't fouled. Nothing out of order? The problem may be that the fuel sitting in the tank has gone stale. Gas goes bad within a few months, so top the tank off with new gasoline. If the tank is full of gas, drain the tank and re-fill with fresh fuel.

    The Engine Stops Running
    So everything is going along swimmingly and you're trundling down the driveway throwing snow like a pro ... when the engine loses power. First, check that the spark plug wire is connected securely to the spark plug. If that doesn't solve the problem, check the gas cap. The gas cap is vented and if it's blocked by snow or ice the unit will lose power. Clear away anything that's there and give it another go.

    snow blower troubleshootingIf your snow blower continues to jam or stutter, it's best to slow down so that the machine does not take on more snow than it can handle. Photo: Nugefishes, Flickr

    Failure to Discharge Snow
    There are several reasons that your snow thrower's discharge chute can clog up. One culprit can be the snow itself. Moving slushy snow through a snow thrower's auger is kind of like making a snow ball in your hands. Moving and compacting the snow turns it to ice, which in turn clogs the chute. To fix, use the tool's clean-out tool (if it doesn't have one, try a stick) to remove the obstruction from the chute. Make sure to shut the unit down and disconnect the spark plug before doing this. Lastly, there could be a foreign object lodged in the auger. Again, power the unit down and remove the obstruction.

    Unit Stutters and Grabs in Operation
    Snow throwers work most efficiently when the blade can ride across the ground and get under the snow. But sidewalks often are riddled with dimples, pockmarks and cracks. If the machine is moving too fast when it hits an irregularity, it can bounce up a little and trap snow under the blade. This action causes the machine to jerk or stutter. The cure is usually to slow down.

    If the irregularity is big, like an uneven sidewalk slab, the blade simply jams into it and the machine can't move forward at all. Again, the key to forward progress is to slow down. The blade maintains contact with the ground, doesn't take on more snow than it can handle, and as a result efficiently captures and ejects the snow.

    KEEP YOUR SHOVEL
    Even with a snow thrower in your possession, you shouldn't ditch your shovel just yet. You still need it to attack the steps and nooks that the muscled-up snow thrower can't go.

    SEE ALSO:
    What to Do After a Blizzard
    Snowpacalypse: Tips to Keep Your Home Safe [Apartment Therapy]

     

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    Dreaming of warm weather? We got a look inside Zsa Zsa Gabor's home and were inspired by the scene-stealing checkerboard floor in her sun-kissed Bel Air sun room. Here's how to copycat this look in your home!

    zsa zsa gabor home, bel air homeZsa Zsa Gabor's home in Bel Air is on the market for $28 million. Photo: Splash News

    Zsa Zsa Gabor's failing health has been landing her in the headlines as of late. Also in the news? The Hungarian actress's massive Bel Air estate, which is currently on the market for $28 million, as first reported by TMZ. More details of Zsa Zsa's mansion are available over at Curbed Los Angeles.

    We got our hands of some pictures of the mansion's interior. Although some of the star's style choices seem questionable, one thing that took our breath away was the uber-inviting sun room, decked out with bright orange awnings, lacquered tables and -- our favorite -- an eye-popping, large-scale, black-and-white checkerboard floor!

    So, as we wish brighter days on the ailing Zsa Zsa, let's take a closer look at her Bel Air sun room and talk about how to recreate that scene-stealing checkerboard floor in our own homes. (Don't forget to scroll down for more interior photos of Zsa Zsa's home.)

    Zsa Zsa Gabor home, Bel Air HomeA checkerboard floor is easy to DIY with floor paint. Photo: Splash News

    How to Paint a Checkerboard Floor
    While alternating tiles are probably what Zsa Zsa used to acheive this bold, classic look, a black-and-white checkerboard floor is easy to DIY with floor paint -- and the best part is that you can use this treatment on just about any surface, from wood to concrete.

    To paint a checkerboard floor, you'll need:

    Painter's tape or chalk
    Floor primer
    Black paint and white paint suitable for floors (if you're feeling adventrous, try a blue-and-white or even a red-and-white pattern!)
    Paint brushes and rollers

    1. Before you start, plan out your pattern: you can stagger the squares in a straight pattern, or you can tilt them for a diamond effect.

    2. Once you have your pattern picked out, wash down the floor and wait for it to dry thoroughly.

    3. Next, prime the entire floor, then paint it white, using a paint roller on an extension pole.

    4. When the primer is dry, tape off one-foot squares, using a tape measure to mark points along a straight line for accuracy. You can also use chalk to mark off the squares.

    5. Paint inside every other square (or diamond) with black paint, using a second coat if necessary. Remove the tape while the paint is still wet, and let the pattern dry overnight.

    For a more detailed tutorial on painting a checkerboard floor, head over to Benjamin Moore.

    zsa zsa gabor home, photosZsa Zsa Gabor's personal photos and cards lay in a basket in her home. Here, the star poses with her ninth husband, Frederic Prinz Von Anhalt, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Photo: Splash News

    The fluid lines of Zsa Zsa's orange leather-upholstered dining chairs can appeal to both modern and traditional design sensibilities. Photo: Splash News

    zsa zsa gabor home, daybed, canopy bedZsa Zsa's decadent day bed features a bold canopy and abundant pillows. Photo: Splash News

    Zsa Zsa's at-home bar is adorned with a candelabra and a glamour shot of the ailing star at the height of her fame. Photo: Splash News

    zsa zsa gabor home, terraceThe star's sun-kissed terrace is spare and inviting. Photo: Splash News

     

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  • 02/10/11--09:13: Building a Mud Room
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    Did you know that about 80 percent of the dirt on your floor comes tracked inside by your feet? Here's a guide to building a mudroom and keeping slushy boots and wet umbrellas where they belong.

    mudroom ideas, building a mudroomMCT

    If your winter has looked anything like mine here in the northeast, you're dealing with weekly snowstorms complete with muddy Wellies, soggy mittens, and lots of wet, dirty outdoor gear coming and going. It can create quite a mess if you don't have a system in place.

    Building a mudroom not only creates a pretty entryway for your home, but it's a practical means of keeping winter's elements from trailing through the house. We consulted with Sabrina Soto, Target Style Expert for Home and host of HGTV's "Get it Sold," the popular show in which she uses her organizing and decorating expertise to stage homes for potential buyers.

    Sabrina shares her tips below for how to makeover even the smallest space into a practical, inviting mudroom.

    sabrina soto, hgtv, building a mudroomOrganizing pro Sabrina Soto. Photo: HGTV

    -- Any space will work: No matter the size, any entry can serve as a mud room as long as you assign everything a place to live and make the space comfortable and functional. "It's important to keep this space organized and tidy as it is the first part of your home that guests will see," says Sabrina.

    -- Clear out your space and de-clutter: Before you start this project, it helps to clear out the entryway to define what space you have to work with and see what the limitations of the area are. Do a careful edit of what you need and what stuff has just landed there over time.

    -- Build your mud room with the essentials: Carefully choose furniture that's the right scale for your space. A seating area and loads of storage bins for accessories are must-have tools for a mudroom. Sabrina suggests this entryway bench with built-in storage. The bench solves so many clutter problems in one storage piece.

    -- Create a system and stick to it. Create enough storage space for every family member; color-coding is an easy way to organize bins for each family member. Don't over-clutter your mud room with furniture pieces that are too big or don't add function to the space.Maintain the mudroom to prevent it from becoming a catchall space.

    ELEMENTS OF A MUDROOM
    Here's a list of specific elements that Sabrina likes to pull into a mudroom. You can pick and choose which elements best suit your needs. Also, check out these stylish product picks, coutesy of the design minds over at ShelterPop!

    mudroom ideas, building a mudroomClick over to ShelterPop for some fashion-forward mudroom product picks. Photos: from top left, clockwise: Etsy, Audio Video Furniture, Amazon, Pier 1 Imports, Anthropologie

    -- Console table: A console table is a perfect landing spot for keys and provides a surface for a lamp, since mud rooms often need extra lighting to liven up the space. If you don't have space for a table, you could always substitute a floor or ceiling lamp and hooks for hanging keys.

    -- Wall hooks: Simple, sturdy wall hooks keep umbrellas, coats, hats, bags, and even keys off the floor and within reach. Hooks offer the customization that each family member may need to keep them organized. Kid's hooks should be hung low so they can reach and help keep their belongings neat.

    -- Mirror: A simple design trick in a small space is to hang a mirror at eye level, as mirrors give the illusion that a space is larger. Bonus: a mirror in your entry provides an easy spot to check your makeup as you head out the door.

    -- Shelf with bins: No space for a bench? Maybe a shelf with bins for hats, gloves, and accessories is a better fit for your mud room.

    -- Boot trays: Protect your floors from wet boots with a couple boot trays.

    -- Door mat: Every entry needs a door mat to catch dirt before it comes in on your shoes.

    -- Umbrella stand: You want a place for everything - your keys, mail, and umbrellas.

    What's in your mudroom? Tell us in the comments below!


    SEE ALSO:
    Mudroom Ideas for a Small Space (ShelterPop)
    HGTV Dream Home 2011: Mudroom Pictures (HGTV)
    Mudroom Designs (Houzz)

     

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    By Kathy Price-Robinson of Kathy's Remodeling Blog

    Jennifer Aniston, platform bedThis platform bed closely resembles the one in Jennifer Aniston's bedroom, as featured in Architectural Digest. Photo: Apartment Therapy Chicago

    Most of us are wealthy like Jennifer Aniston. And we may not have her killer figure or her movie star status. But we can sleep in a gorgeous platform bed like Aniston's -- was featured in Architectural Digest -- and for a lot less than she likely paid for hers.

    So how can we afford such a luxurious bed? We can make it ourselves.

    What makes this bed frame extra special is its generous size. The platform extends past the mattress on all sides, providing ample surface to rest things like books, drinks, and your cell phone. The end tables that flank the bed are actually extensions of the bed frame itself. Extra space at the foot of the bed allows for other luxuries, like a cushion for seating.

    Of course, you need a fairly large room to accommodates a bed this size. But if you build such a bed yourself, you can scale down its proportions to suit your room size.

    For inspiration on how to build this bed, we turned to carpentry guru Gary Katz, publisher of the popular site This is Carpentry. (He also created these outstanding digital illustrations!)

    "This bed design is a great one," says Katz. "The bed seems to float above the floor, and the top of the bed floats above the bed frame. Both details are easy to accomplish," he adds. "And the materials are simple to collect, too." The dimensions shown here focus on a king-size mattress. Here's how Katz breaks it down for us:

    http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=871880&pid=871879&uts=1271778263
    http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/media_gallery/v1/ke_media_gallery_wrapper.swf

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    This platform bed, featured in the March 2010 issue of Architectural Digest, is built with attached "ears" -- side tables that are big enough to hold oversize lamps.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    The bed's platform has a groove at its base that makes it appear to float above the floor.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    Following the instructions below, you'll make the frame of the platform first, using 1-by-8-inch pine boards standing vertically. Then you'll make the top of the platform with 1-by-8-inch pine boards lying flat.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    As you see above, a strip of thin molding, called an edge banding, is applied around the edge of the platform. This covers up the ends of the boards that have been cut, giving it a cleaner finish. On the facing of the bed frame, 1-by-6-inch pine boards are installed. These details are what create the shadow line (also called a reglet); this recessed line gives the bed a classy edge. It's all in the details.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    Before staining a soft and porous wood like pine, you should use a conditioner that will help the stain go on smoother and without blotches. Minwax makes a good Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, which you apply with a cloth or a brush. You may want to stain with a honey oak or dark oak stain. After that, seal with a water-based polyurethane coating, which you apply with a bristle or foam brush.

    Build a floor frame exactly the same dimensions as the interior frame; in this case, 106.5 inches by 94.5 inches, using 2-by-4s installed flat on the floor.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    It should be exactly the same dimensions as the interior frame; in this case, 106.5 inches by 94.5 inches, using 2-by-4s installed flat on the floor.
    Then build the interior frame on top using a series of 1-by-8-inch pine boards standing on edge (vertically), spaced 16 inches apart, measured from the center of each board. Use drywall screws to fasten all the boards together.
    Then build the interior frame on top using a series of 1-by-8-inch pine boards standing on edge (vertically), spaced 16 inches apart, measured from the center of each board. Use drywall screws to fasten all the boards together.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    Then install 1-by-6-inch trim boards on the face of the entire frame with small finish nails. Extend those 1-by-6 boards around the entire perimeter of the frame

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    ...including the end table extensions, as shown above. Then install the finished platform boards on top of the frame, also shown above. Use a saw and cutting guide to be sure the platform boards are perfectly flush.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    As you can see in the illustration above, the chamfered edge on this molding is cut at a 45-degree angle. This gives it more of a polished, rounded look, which is better than just a square piece of molding. Apply with finish nails, with tiny little heads, or with trim-head screws, which look nicer than your average screw.

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

    Then make up the bed, take photos, and email them to us at DIYLifeMail@aol.com. We'd love to see your results!

    Create the Look: Jen Aniston Platform Bed

     

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    Make sure to provide a football team's worth of seating with these simple yet whimsical DIY chair projects.

    So you're throwing a Super Bowl party this weekend and you're afraid you won't have enough seating for everyone? Here are three of our favorite DIY chairs that you can whip up quickly and on the cheap. (Rather buy than DIY? Check out ShelterPop's roundup of chic seats, each under $50.)






    DIY Chair #1: Modern Arm Chair by PlanCanvas

    Back in June, we interviewed crafter/builder Christian Schoeneman about the DIY furniture plans he creates for his company PlanCanvas.

    In the process, we fell for the Modern Arm Chair he suggests building with 3/4-inch-thick plywood (one 4 x 8-foot piece is enough to build two) and standard dowels. The main tools you'll need are a jigsaw and a drill.

    The 26" x 32" x 21" chair is the perfect extra seat that you'll be proud to display in your TV room.

    Plans for the chair are free on the company's site.





    DIY Chair #2: Two-Hour Chair from "Home from the Hardware Store"


    diy chairs, home from the hardware store, superbowl partyAmazon
    We recently covered the book "Home from the Hardware Store" by Kathleen Hackett and Stephen Antonson. The pair incorporated common, industrial hardware store items into some of the most ingenius and surprisingly stylish housewares we've seen in a while. One of our favorite projects was the "Two-Hour Chair," so called between you can complete it in exactly that timeframe with an armful of supplies and just two hand tools. Here's an excerpt from the book:

    SHELF SUPPORTS + PLYWOOD = TWO-HOUR CHAIR

    The only time-consuming step in making this chair is cutting the shelf supports. Unlike the table, which is all right angles, this chair is designed to conform to the way we sit, which is always leaning back slightly. To achieve this, the chair base is smaller than the seat. If you want to make a perfectly square chair, make the sled legs 18 inches long.

    MATERIALS

    2 plated steel slotted angle shelf supports, 3' x 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" each
    9 plated steel slotted angle shelf supports, 18" x 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" each
    2 plated steel slotted angle shelf supports, 15" x 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" each
    18 zinc bolts and nuts, 1/2-20 x 1/2" each
    18 flat washers, 1/2" each
    18 lock washers, 1/2" each
    18"-square piece of 3/4" plywood

    TOOLS

    Phillips-head screwdriver
    7/16" wrench

    DIY chairs, Home from the Hardware StoreRodale Books

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Arrange the 3' lengths on a work surface, flat edge down, so that they are parallel. Position an 18" piece on either end so that the edges are flush, and place another 18" piece 15 1/2" from one short edge. Fasten them together by sliding a flat washer onto the bolt and inserting it into a corner hole from the underside of the frame. Slide a lock washer onto the bolt, followed by the nut, and tighten with the wrench. This is the back of the chair.

    2. Position an 18" shelf support on each end of the ledge of the support in the middle of the chair back. Fasten them to the frame along the inside edge and middle support, using the washers, nuts, and bolts as you did in Step 1. Fasten a third 18" shelf support across the front of the seat in the same manner.

    DIY chairs, Home from the Hardware Store, Super Bowl partyRodale Books

    3. Attach the 15" shelf supports to the outside of the bottom of the frame. Fasten an 18" piece across the front of the base.

    4. With the chair front facing you, tilt the frame by pulling the seat toward you and pushing the chair back away from you. Attach the front legs as in step 3, mounting the remaining two 18" shelf supports to the outside of the seat and base frame. Once it's completely assembled, work around the chair to tighten each bolt.

    DIY chairs, Home from the Hardware Store, Super Bowl partyRodale Books

    5. Set the plywood into the seat frame so that it rests on the bolts; it will be slightly higher than the edges of the frame (see 5a), so that your legs are not touching the frame when you're seated. If the plywood resists, use a hammer to tap it into place.


    DIY Chair #3: DIY Upholstered Folding Chairs by Apartment Therapy

    If you have plain Jane, standard-issue folding chairs -- or plan on buying a few for your Super Bowl party -- give them a design upgrade with this simple upholstery project.

    Leave it to the creative minds at Apartment Therapy to dream up and execute these excellent upholstered DIY folding chairs. All you need to bang out one of these chairs is an hour, a staple gun, a hot glue gun, your favorite fabric and some foam and dacron. Click here for full instructions.

    Happy Super Bowl party!

     

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  • 02/10/11--09:13: Cheap Ways to Heat Your Home
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    Brrr . . . it's cold out there! As winter temperatures continue to drop, your heating and electricity bills may be going through the roof. Stay warm on the cheap with a few strategic steps.

    ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsFeeling winter's chill? Conserve energy, save money and stay warm with these practical tips. Photo: AP

    Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog may have proclaimed that spring isn't far away, but the huge winter blizzards paralyzing much of the United States beg to differ. Take for example the residents of Texas, where icy conditions and frigid temperatures forced power providers to implement rolling blackouts statewide.

    This after a cold snap shut down 7,000 megawatts of power generators, and caused the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state's power grid operator, to declare an energy emergency and beg customers to conserve energy.

    While these power outages most likely will lead to a great deal of unhappy customers, it's an opportune time to learn strategic steps that will help you save energy (and lower your utility bills) during the cold winter months. Even with most of the country buried in snow and temperatures hovering around freezing, you can still reduce your energy consumption and keep your home warm. Here are a few energy conservation measures that are easy to implement:

    - Open blinds and curtains during the daytime to take advantage of the sun's natural heat. Close them at night to reduce the chill and keep heat inside your home. You can also use insulated curtains, which are are specifically designed to keep warmth in and the cold out.

    - Use a humidifier. Humidity holds heat, so raising the humidity level in your home will increase the temperature of your home by as much as 15 degrees. For a DIY humidifier, simmer water on the stove. Or after taking a bath, leave the warm water in the tub.


    ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity bills

    - Lower thermostats to 68 degrees or less. When you are asleep or out of the house, turning your thermostat down 10-15 degrees for eight hours can shave 10 percent off your winter heating bills. There's no need to waste heat when you're not at home!

    ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsPhoto: CasaSugar

    - Weatherproof your home. Seal up the drafty openings in your windows and doors with weatherstripping or draft blockers. Attach door sweeps to the bottom of your doors to create an air block between the door and threshold.

    ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsPhoto: Getty Images

    - Make your fireplace more efficient. Wood-burning fireplaces do more for aesthetics than they do for actually heating your home. A significant amount of your home's heat is lost through the chimney, along with your hard-earned money. Maximize the efficiency of a fireplace by installing glass doors, which will help prevent heated air from escaping through the chimney. Make sure the chimney damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use. Also, installing a fireback in your fireplace will reflect heat into the room (instead of sending it up the chimney).

    ercot, cheap ways to heat your home, home heating, electricity billsLayering up is an inexpensive way to stay warm during the winter months. Photo: NY Times



    - Layer up. The best way to stay warm is to dress warm, even if that means wearing a hat inside. A great deal of body heat escapes through the head, so a hat will go a long way in keeping you cozy. Also employ undershirts in your wardrobe ensembles, as well as sweatshirts over long-sleeve shirts, and wear wool socks to keep your feet warm. Throw on a blanket, or even a better a Snuggie. According to the NY Times, one out of every 12 Americans owns a Snuggie; join this toasty, warm crowd.

    - Use rugs and carpets in your home. Rooms with wall-to-wall carpeting have better insulation. If you have hardwood floors, use area rugs in the winter to prevent cold air from seeping up through the floor. Also, place dark-colored rugs in sunny areas of your house to absorb more of the sun's heat.

    - Close unused rooms. Instead of heating rooms you rarely use, closed off these rooms and shut the heater vents located in them.

    - Cuddle up. Baby, it's cold outside, so invite everyone over to stay warm. Body heat is nature's radiator, and the more people in your home the warmer it will be.

    SEE ALSO:
    Home Heating Mistakes
    How to Make Your Fireplace More Efficient (Lifehacker)
    7 Ways to Stay Warm on the Cheap (Wisebread)

     

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    Ready, set, hut! It's Super Bowl time, so warm up for the big game with easy party tips and DIY projects from around the web.

    Holidash


    Get in the spirit with easy, inexpensive table decorations. Instead of going overboard with big and splashy décor pieces, opt for subtle DIY crafts that won't break your bank. Use decorative tape and stickers to turn your buffet table into a football field. [Holidash]

    Unplggd


    Don't fumble on game day! Whether you have a brand-new spanking model or an older set, a TV on the fritz will be quite the party buzz kill. For fuzzy or blurry screens, follow Unplggd's troubleshooting tips to pinpoint and fix the problem. [Unplggd]


    Real Simple

    From chili and dip recipes to directions on slicing avocados for guacamole, get everything you need to know to host the ultimate Super Bowl party. Have an oversupply of beer? Try cooking with it. These eight recipes will score you big points. [Real Simple]

    For cash-strapped hosts, WalletPop has touchdown-worthy tips for throwing a Super Bowl party on the cheap. To really stretch your game-day dollars opt for house brands, fire up your popcorn popper and just say no to desserts. [Walletpop]

    Go green for the championship game by hosting an eco-friendly bash. [Chico News & Review]

    Can't leave the action for even a minute? If your idea of a dream bathroom includes a flat-screen TV and football-shaped tub, DIY Network is looking for you to design the "Ultimate Sports Bathroom." Post a comment detailing what your dream bathroom would include and you'll be entered to win a deluxe Bemis toilet seat for your bowl. [DIY Network]

    With guests pouring in and loading up on food, there's a chance your toilet may start to act (and smell) a little fishy. Luckily, most clogged toilets can be fixed without calling a plumber. This Old House shows you how to diagnose and clear stubborn clogs in toilets, as well as kitchen sinks. [This Old House]


    Apartment Therapy


    Whip up extra seating that is sure to impress using folding chairs and upholstery materials. Crafting these chairs for your party only takes an hour of your time and $20 for each chair. Go the extra yard and outfit them in your favorite team's colors. [Apartment Therapy]

    CasaSugar


    Up for a challenge? Think outside the box and turn an old TV set into a swanky bar cart for your Super Bowl party. Grout, sewn curtains, recycled materials and MDF board can turn a piece of junk into a conversation starter. [CasaSugar]

    My Home Ideas/Elle Decor


    As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. When the sun sets on Super Bowl Sunday, blend your souped-up television into your living room's décor using clever tricks. Hiding it behind decorative screens, hanging it as art, or disguising it at a piece of furniture are all easy DIY solutions. [ShelterPop]

     

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  • 02/10/11--09:13: Knick Knack Makeover
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    Few things make a room feel as dated and messy as a heap of hideous knick knacks. Here's how to transform these eyesores into chic showpieces with a secret weapon -- white spray paint.

    Check out this effortlessly clever makeover project from Decor Demon, courtesy of our friends over at Houzz!

    Houzz, knick knack

    Ever since my Aunt Rita's creepy clown figurine damaged my soul back in 1982, I've despised knick knacks. As somewhat of a modernist, I've often pondered the purpose of these cluttery horrors. It's not like they actually do anything, right? Plus, you've gotta have something to showcase them in; who wants to spend $800 on a display cabinet for dozens of stupid things no one cares about anyway?

    knick knack, makeoverA basketful of unsightly knick knacks, before and after. Photo: Houzz

    Always up for a challenge, I attempted to make a dozen aesthetically-challenged knick knacks hip, sophisticated and useful. Though doubtful from the start, it turns out that with just a few simple materials, a steady hand and a lazy afternoon, anyone can turn ghastly garbage into glamorous goodies.

    knick knack, makeoverHouzz


    In addition to an assortment of odd-numbered, uber-ugly, pseudo-accessories, here's what you'll need for this project: sandpaper, newspaper, canned air, spray paint handle, spray primer and high-gloss spray paint.

    knick knack, makeoverHouzz


    Here's where the newspaper comes in handy. Once you've decided on a well ventilated, exterior workspace, use the periodical to protect your work surface.

    knick knack, makeoverHouzz


    Ain't buyin' the canned air thing? Well, here's proof that proper prep results in one helluva great finish; the previously tacky, golden cherub is now a snow-white superstar. Although any color spray paint will work, I strongly encourage sticking with ultra-white. It goes with everything and instantly modernizes all things stuffy, traditional or gaudy.

    Want to see just how to acheive a flawless finish? Head over to Houzz for the full, step-by-step instructions, and to see more refinished knick knacks!

     

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    Beyond the laundry room, reader Belle Goode shares great uses for dryer sheets.

    It's common knowledge that fabric-softener dryer sheets can be used to eliminate static cling and soften clothes, but that's just the beginning of their usefulness. Dryer sheets have been my mom's go-to tool for cleaning all around the house. Just check out some of her favorite ways to clean with them:

    Wash Dishes: To loosen baked-on food from dishes, simply place a dryer sheet onto the dish, fill with cold water, and let it soak over night. The fabric softener in the dryer sheet will break down the food particles, making the dish much easier to clean in the morning.

    Mosquito Repellent: Just stick a dryer sheet in each pocket or tie it to a belt loop. My family grew up camping, and using dryer sheets is a lot more cost effective than any bug spray or citronella candle. Plus, they have a pleasant scent.

    Deoderizer: Banish stinky odors by tucking dryer sheets into sneakers, slippers, luggage, camping gear, sports equipment, basements, attics, and garages.

    Soap Scum Buster: Clean glass shower doors by scrubbing them with damp dryer sheets.

    Duster: Wipe static from your television and computer screen, as well as dust blinds.

    Needless to say, I now keep a box of dryer sheets in my laundry, and one under my sink.

    We want to hear your best DIY household tip related to cleaning, fixing, building or organizing. Head over to Seed.com to contribute your tip, and we may just buy it and publish it here!

     

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    Will an open fire leave your home more cold and frosty than warm and toasty? Get the true facts on fireplaces before lighting those logs --

    fireplace heatingRoaring fires evoke the warm feelings of holiday cards, but are fireplaces efficient forms of heat? Photo: Lord-helmut, Flickr

    As winter continues to roar, picturesque dreams of chestnuts roasting on an open fire may dance in your head. And you're not the only one coveting cozy nights cast under a warm glow. According, to the National Home Builder's Association, 77 percent of home-buyers list a fireplace as a "most-wanted" amenity.


    Unfortunately, in addition to a cozy ambience, fireplaces also elicit concern about safety-hazards, air pollution, inefficient heating properties, and laborious maintenance needs. Not quite the makings of a festive Nat King Cole song.

    But do the pros outweigh the cons? Can a wood-burning fireplace really heat your home sufficiently? Are these structures simply a house fire waiting to happen? The key is to decipher the difference between fact and fiction. Plenty of conventional wisdom regarding fireplaces is flat-out wrong, or at least misleading. Here's the truth behind some of the commonly held fireplace misconceptions.


    Fireplace Myths, Realities, and Easy Fixes

    A relatively simple way to increase the warmth of a fireplace is to install a fireback, a decorative cast-iron plate that reflects heat into the room. Photo: Fireback.com

    Myth: A fireplace provides heat.

    Reality: Wood-burning fireplaces do not provide as much heat as they do ambience and beauty. Once upon a time, a fireplace was used as a major heat source -- as well as a stove for cooking food. But that role started waning about 270 years ago with the advent of the Franklin Stove.

    Fire requires oxygen for combustion, thus fireplace flames consume the heated air inside your home, which results in a drafty interior. Also, cold exterior air is sucked into the house through the fireplace's chimney.

    The Fix: This one's simple. Maximize the warmth of a fireplace by installing a fireback.

    A Pennsylvania Fireback is a decorative cast-iron shield placed in the rear of the fireplace. Firebacks reflect and radiate the heat from your fireplace back into the room, increasing the amount of warmth your fire provides. Opt for a heavy fireback, as lighter firebacks don't retain as much heat. Prices start around $200 for a fireback.

    Adding doors to a fireplace is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to increase the fireplace's heat efficiency. Photo: Lowe's

    Myth: A fireplace operates inefficiently.

    Reality: Over a year, a fireplace may passively consume more energy while not in operation due to leaks around the damper than when it's actually in use.

    Most fireplaces have a throat damper, which is the steel plate inside the chimney that closes against a steel or masonry shelf to prevent hot air from escaping or cold air from entering. But because both the damper and the chimney itself are rigid, a tight seal is nearly impossible. Making the situation worse, many fireplace owners don't even know this little door is back there and leave it wide open all year long. This is almost the equivalent of leaving a window open.

    The Fix: Install fireplace doors.

    While they can be decorative, the main function of fireplace doors is to create a second barrier between the living space and the home's exterior. They are very effective at keeping heat in and blocking cold air from entering. Prices start around $150 for the doors.

    Another efficient solution is to use a top-sealing damper, which creates a gasket seal similar to a door closing against weatherstripping. This keeps conditioned air from escaping and inhibits outside air from infiltrating the chimney. Lyemance, a leading manufacturer, says top-sealing dampers are 90 percent more efficient than throat dampers and can save hundreds of dollars annually on a typical sized home in a cold climate. Chimney-top dampers are available for $200 to $400.

    fireplace heatingGetty Images

    Myth: You can't burn soft wood, like pine, because its pitch creates creosote that will coat the inside of your chimney and increase the possibility of chimney fires.

    Reality: According to Ashley Eldridge, Director of Education for the National Chimney Sweep Guild, you can indeed burn pine without making a sticky mess of the chimney. Seasoned wood (wood that has dried for a year) burns better than green wood, which has a high-water content because it is recently felled.

    It's also worth pointing out that most wood you'll burn, such as varieties from your local tree service or landscaper, is about as green a fuel as there is available. This is largely because it is locally harvested and transportation impact is minimal. Green experts refer to this as a low "embodied energy."

    Myth: Unused chimneys don't need inspecting or cleaning.

    Reality: The National Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends annual chimney inspection.

    Cracks can develop within the structure, as well obstructions like bird nests. An annual inspection enables you to pinpoint and fix small problems before they become huge, expensive ones.

    The Fix: A certified chimney sweep inspects operation of parts susceptible to wear and tear, such as the damper, the chimney's interior and exterior construction. They're also trained to recommend and complete maintenance upgrades including stainless steel flue liners, like the HomeSaver. They'll diagnose performance issues like weak draft, smoke that doesn't flow forcefully up the chimney.

    A basic inspection usually costs around $200 and the price often includes a sweep (cleaning). Repairs or upgrades depend on severity of the problem, height of or access to the chimney, and other variables.

    According to State Farm Insurance, a sweep should clean a chimney if he sees 1/8-1/4 inch of creosote buildup. Creosote, a tar-like substance that lines a chimney with a sticky flammable coating, is a product of combustion and accumulates in the flue. It is an infamous ingredient for some chimney fires.

    You can find a certified chimney sweep by visiting www.NCSG.org or www.Chimneys.com, as well as learn more about Links to how your chimney works at www.CSIA.org.


    SEE ALSO:
    How to Clean Your Fireplace
    Fireplaces to Warm Any Room [Apartment Therapy]
    Practical Tips for Building a Fire [EPA]
    Decorating a Fireplace Mantel [ShelterPop]

     

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    What's even better than flowers and chocolate for Valentine's Day? Flowers made out of chocolate, of course! Design duo Larry Abel and Raymond McAllister teach us all about this unlikely art form.

    At last last month's InStyle Golden Globes Godiva lounge, celebrity guests were dazzled by floor-to-ceiling chocolate flowers, arranged in modern acrylic vases. And last year, the same DIYers who made those flowers designed an entire set made from Godiva chocolates -- from ornate chandeliers to fireplace logs to, of course, flowers. Both displays were grand -- the kind of thing you'd think would take years of intense training.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersOversized chocolate flowers at the Godiva lounge at the 2010 Golden Globes. Photo: InStyle

    But the event designers behind these works of candy art are actually self-taught crafters. Larry Abel and Raymond McAllister, who now run the event design company "abel mcallister de-signs," were your average 9-to-5-ers before leaving their day jobs to pursue their passion. Abel, formerly the Senior VP of Brand Marketing for Mars, Inc. -- yep, the chocolate company -- and McAllister, who's worked as the Visual Manager for the Chicago Old Navy flagship store, now plan and execute elaborate designs for bold-name events ranging from the People Magazine Grammy Party and Entertainment Weekly's Upfronts to the upcoming Piaget Lounge at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Godiva Bar at the Elton John Oscar Party.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowers, godiva lounge, larry abel, raymond mcallisterLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Oh, and the duo doesn't just work with chocolate. In fact, Abel and McAllister pride themselves on working with a range of unlikely mediums. We spoke with the designers about their outside-the-box art works, what it's like to work with chocolate -- and what they're getting (and giving) this Valentine's Day (hint: it's not necessarily chocolate).

    Want to make a chocolate flower for your sweetie this V-Day? Scroll down to get step-by-step directions -- plus photos! -- for this surprisingly easy (and totally romantic) Valentine's Day project.


    DIY Life: How would you define your work -- which is very visual and conceptual -- in words?

    Raymond McAllister: We bring vision and concepts to life, and create something out of nothing.

    DIY: What is your experience with creating works of art, and how did you transition from your former careers into your current ones?

    Larry Abel: Art has always been a hobby and and I've always liked texture and using interesting mediums. When I was a kid, it was macaroni and coffee grounds. Today, it's everything from flip flops to makeup. Our former careers were something we did to make a living until we could get to this point: now, our careers have become synonymous with our art.

    RM: I've always been creative. Halloween was (and still is) one of my favorite holidays. I can remember helping my mom make costumes using everything from aluminum foil and cardboard to make The Tin Man to a black-dyed mop-head to make an egyptian wig. In a way my career has been a natural progression; even though I started in a very corporate environment, I always found ways to use my creativity.

    DIY: What mediums do you work in? And what draws you to work in unexpected mediums?

    LA: We've made art out of toasted chips, Havianas flip-flops, candy, make-up, vegetables, tennis equipment, clothing. What really draws us to these mediums is our clients and their products, and seeing how creative we can get with them.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowers, godiva lounge, larry abel, raymond mcallisterInStyle

    DIY: What were the circumstances that led you to working with chocolate?

    LA: When we started working with Godiva, we wanted to really challenge ourselves to find a creative way to engage people with the brand. It more or less grew from there. But who wouldn't love to work with chocolate? You get to eat your mistakes!

    DIY: Is chocolate an easy or difficult medium to work with? How so? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of chocolate as a building material?

    RM: Chocolate is a very difficult medium to work with because it involves a precise understanding of a a number of factors. Chocolate is actually quite delicate, which is what makes it challenging - its not easy to retain the integrity and beauty of each piece. The benefit is it's breathtaking and people respond well to it - the drawback is it's short shelf-life, if you're not careful, it will (literally) melt!

    DIY: What tools, materials and conditions are required for working with chocolate?

    RM: You need a very cool workspace, tempering pot, brushes, knives, spatulas, chisels -- and patience.

    DIY: Is chocolate a medium that an everyday DIYer could work with to some degree? Would you recommend it to people who are crafterly or DIY-minded?

    RM: Well I think everyone who's creative can find interesting ways to work with new materials. It just takes patience, creativity and a willingness to work in trial and error.

    LA: And a lot of counter space.

    DIY: Do you think chocolate is a romantic medium? If so, why? Did you learn more about chocolate since you've been working with it? What did you learn?

    LA: Chocolate is a romantic medium because it's very sensuous and indulgent. I've learned quite a few things since we've started working with chocolate. For example, working with white chocolate is actually far more difficult than working with milk or dark chocolate. I've also learned not to put chocolate next to the fireplace.

    RM: Working with chocoalte has its own personality. The more you work with it, the more you learn what you can do to it. Different types of chocolate have different melting points, and can react differently as a finished product.

    DIY: Are you giving each other Valentines this year?

    RM: I already gave Larry his gift: an iPod Nano, in red. A portion of the proceeds benefit Project (RED).

    LA: I thought of giving Raymond chocolate.

    DIY: What medium would you like to work in that you haven't gotten a chance to yet?

    LA and RM: Diamonds, marbles and office supplies!


    HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE FLOWERS
    Want to try your own hand at a chocolate flower for your valentine? Abel and McAllister were kind enough to walk us through the process, petal by petal. We think a gift like this would make anyone sweet on you!

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    SUGGESTED MATERIALS
    1 cup Godiva 72% Dark Melting Chocolate (chocolate chips)
    1 cup Godiva Milk Chocolate Covered Cashews (small candies of your choice)
    3 Godiva 72% Dark Chocolate Bars (chocolate bars)
    8 Godiva Midnight Swirl Chocolates (any similar chocolates)
    1 Godiva White Praline Heart (similar chocolate w/ contrasting color)
    1 electric skillet
    1 ASI clear acrylic vase
    1 rubber spatula
    Various paint brushes

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 1: Pour 1 cup melting chocolates into electric skillet.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 2: Melt chocolate on low heat, stirring constantly.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 3: Use a paintbrush to apply melted chocolate to one end of a chocolate bar.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymong McAllister

    Step 4: Attach another chocolate bar to the painted area of the first chocolate bar to create the "stem."

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 5: Break the third chocolate bar into two even pieces.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 6: Paint melted chocolate on the face of both pieces of the broken chocolate bar.

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 7: Attach the broken Chocolate Bar pieces face down to the top of the "Stem" Bars as shown in the photos

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 8: Paint melted chocolate on the corner of 4 Midnight Swirls

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 9: Attach the 4 Midnight Swirls as shown in the configuration in the photo

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

    Step 10: Repeat the process of adding melted chocolate to the remaining 4 Midnight Swirls and attach to stem creating the "Petals" as shown in the photo

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymon McAllister

    Step 11: Apply melted chocolate to the White Praline Heart and attach in the center of the "Petals"

    valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowerschocolate flowers

    Step 12: Add the Milk Chocolate Covered Cashews to the ASI Vase. Display the flower in the vase as shown

     

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    Accumulating snow and ice may be pushing your roof to its breaking point. Avoid a roof collapse by taking these preventative measures.

    roof collapse, roof rakes, removing snowA roof piled high with heavy snow and ice runs the risk of caving in. Photo: Bochalla, Flickr

    Heavy snow and ice accumulation, coupled by a wave of roof collapses, have left residents of the Northeast rushing to remove enough snow before their rooftops give way. The demand is so great that snow removal tools like roof rakes have become winter's version of Tickle Me Elmo -- a hot commodity flying off of stores shelves.

    With the threat of more snow on the horizon, state emergency officials across the region are urging people to clear their roofs and decks to minimize the likelihood of structural collapse. To prevent major damage, as well as save big bucks and stress, here's a breakdown of winter roof protection.

    Dangers of Snow-Covered Roofs
    Picturesque snow-capped houses are charming, but don't be fooled by their delicate beauty. Snow has a great deal of weight, and that weight increases immensely when rain, ice and sleet are added to the mix. Two feet of snow on the average-sized roof can be the equivalent of 38,000 pounds, or 19 tons, NBC News reports. All of this weight puts stress on your roof and weakens its structure.

    Complicating matters more, the melting of this mass can cause water seepage, which can rot roofs, destroy insulation, flood attics, ruin gutters and damage the interior of your home.

    Before attempting to remove snow from roofs, take note that clearing roofs can be a dangerous task. Think twice before jumping on the roof with a shovel in hand. Most officials don't support the idea of people climbing onto their roofs to remove the buildup, as the weight of a person may be just enough to trigger the roof to collapse. Also, taking the wrong step on an icy roof can easily send you sliding down a slippery slope.

    So above all, be careful! If you're afraid to DIY it, don't.


    Warning Signs That a Roof Is About to Collapse

    The obvious sign that a roof is about to give way is sagging. Also, if you hear creaking, cracking, popping sounds, you should get out of the building as quickly as possible, as these are strong indicators of an imminent collapse.


    Severe roof leaks, bowed pipes attached at the ceilings, cracks in the walls or masonry, doors that pop open, as well as doors or windows that are difficult to open are also signs people should look for, according to the Providence Emergency Management Agency.


    In addition to your roofs, take heed of decks. Often times they are DIY hacks and may not be up to coding standards. This makes them highly susceptible to collapse under the weight of the snow and ice.





    How Do You Remove Snow from the Roof?

    roof collapseA roof rake has a long pole that enables you to scrape away layers of snow from the roof. Photo: AP

    Once snow buildup occurs or ice dams forms, using a roof rake is the best option that doesn't require spending cash on a professional. The rake has an extended handle, which enables you to pull snow off the roof -- from the safety of the ground.

    To remove snow and ice, start from the edge and work your way into the roof using downward strokes. Try to to scrape the snow along the bottom of the roof, shaving two or three inches off. There's no need to scrape the roof entirely clean, as this will risk damage to your roof shingles or other roof covering.




    If you don't have a roof rake (or your local hardware store is sold out), follow these tips to create a DIY roof rake.

    Metal snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line, so be careful. Also, avoid using a ladder when removing the snow; the ladder's rungs can freeze and cause you to slip. Instead of the ladder, buy extension poles or a longer rake to reach higher portions of the roof. While the average roof rake can be purchased for about $40, the Avalanche Snow Rake is pricier (around $120) and allows for easy removal of snow from high roofs.

    How to Prevent Ice Dams

    - Get snow off the roof before it can cause ice damage.
    Ice dams typically form when snow on the roof starts to melt due to heat escaping from inside the home. The melted water runs down the roof, refreezes and clogs up gutters. As more snow melts, because the gutters are blocked, the water is forced to travel under the shingles and leak into the house.

    - Add insulation to attic floors.
    A well-insulated attic and well-ventilated roof will prevent heat from escaping, which in turn will protect the roof from conditions that cause ice dams.

    - Clean your gutters bi-annually.
    Blocked gutters and downspouts can cause ice damns -- as well as rot and other water-based damage to your home. Before the first snow falls, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs and other debris that have collected through the fall. Perform this task again in the spring, to clean out the debris from winter.

    - Keep gutters and drains free of ice and snow.
    During winter months, make sure your downspouts are clean at ground level.

    - Use pantyhose for a fast fix.
    This Old House suggests filling the leg of a pair of pantyhose with chloride ice melter. Put the hose onto the roof so it overhangs the gutter. The calcium chloride will melt through the snow and ice and free up a channel for water to flow down into the gutters and off the roof.

    SEE ALSO:
    What to Do After a Blizzard
    Ice Melters: Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Rock Salt
    Snow Report: Fixes Winter Problems
    Top Tips for Dealing With Snow [CasaSugar]
    Fast Fixes for Ice Dams [This Old House]

     

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    More than half of US adults claim to use their showers for more than just washing up. Here are some of the most unusual shower items they admit to bringing into the stall. Do any of these sound familiar?

    shower itemsTheresa Coleman Clement

    Do you do more in your shower than, well, shower? According to a recent study by Delta Faucet, more than half of us -- and perhaps this includes you -- are bringing more than just the typical shower items like razors and loofah sponges.

    "Everything we do starts with market research and really understanding how consumers use our products," says says Susan Fisher, Director of Brand Management for Delta Faucet. "And this study gives us more insight into that very personal space."

    And, there's a lot of things people do in that particular box that I hadn't ever considered trying. But, when you consider that only 34 percent of Americans live in a single-family home, according to the National Multi Housing Council, not everyone has a utility sink or access to a hose. So the shower might just be the best (and only) solution available when you need access to water.

    Snowy or dirty boots. While some of us may remove our dirty boots before entering the house or rinse them with the hose, some of us are cleaning them in the shower.

    garden tools, diy supplies, shower itemsTheresa Coleman Clement

    Tools. When our tools get dirty, about one-quarter of Americans are cleaning them inside the shower.

    Theresa Coleman Clement

    Pots and pans. Sink size can make it tough to fit soup and stock pots or other large pans in a standard size kitchen sink. So people are heading into the shower to clean them.

    Window screens. Cleaning window screens is a big job. You may reach for a hose, but not everyone does. Window screens are being cleaned in the shower.

    shower itemsTheresa Coleman Clement

    Plants. Plants, like us, need water to survive. A watering can may be the typical way to hydrate the hibiscus, but some are getting their fill in the shower.

    Bleaching whites. If you need to soak your whites with bleach and don't want to occupy your washer on laundry day, you might want to use your tub/shower.


    OK, maybe these aren't SO wacky, but...

    Babies. Babies don't need a bath as often as their parents, but some parents actually bring their babies into the shower to clean them.

    dog in bath, shower itemsGetty Images

    Pets. Did you know that about a quarter of Americans wash their pets in the shower? Considering the American Veterinary Medical Association's tally that about 63 percent of all households in the United States have a pet, this research from Delta Faucet means that about 40 percent of pets are taking a shower like the rest of us.

    Significant other. If you are from the South Atlantic (Maryland through Florida), you might think this shouldn't make this list. Delta Faucet uncovered that people in those states are 12 times more likely to bring a significant other into the shower than those living in New England.

    Cleaning-up from 'accidents.'Now this may seem a little vague, but Delta Faucet says this category include 'things that need to soak and be in standing contained water' to be cleaned. I'll leave you to use your imagination here.

    "Research like this helps us keep up-to-date on current trends and gives us inspiration to develop new products that make living with water a lot easier," says Susan.

    So Delta Faucet is creating showering products that go beyond just helping us bathe our bodies in the shower and offering us tools to get all the other showering activities accomplished. They've created a new showerhead call In2ition that it designed to clean other things, too. It's a showerhead and a hand-held shower that docks inside in an integrated space, helps get the water where you need it without cluttering our very busy showers. They also have a Palm Shower that might be ideal for washing pets and pots in the shower.

    Is there something that you bring into the shower that didn't make our list? We'd love to know: What unusual things do you bring into the shower?

    If you're worried about how much heat you're losing through all the hot water that runs through your shower, watch this video, in which DIYer Danny Lipford explains how to reduce the energy used by your home's water heater.

     

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    Are you guilty of collecting too much stuff? It may be because you buy too many catch-all containers to corral it all. Our writer blasts these inanimate clutter enablers.

     catchall containersPhotoCredit: Corbis

    Like a lot of people, I collect way too much "stuff." My New Year's resolution is to take care of the clutter once and for all. Really, this time. I know it's February, but still, I'm determined.

    I'm all for clever, useful storage solutions. In fact, I'm known to get a little overzealous in the presence of some of the latest and most stylish storage items (I mean, have you been to The Container Store lately?). But there is one that drives me crazy: the catchall container. To me, catchall containers are little more than glorified junk collectors.

    catchall containersBeware of the catch-all storage system: it can cause more chaos than good. Platinum, Flickr

    Take for example, Merriam-Webster's definition of a catchall: Something that holds or includes odds and ends or a wide variety of things. And my definition: Any box, basket or other container that is intended to serve as a dumping spot for random junk.

    Yet design magazines, websites and showrooms use catchalls as perfect accents and accessories for any room. Sure, they're attractive from a design perspective, but they lack real-world functionality. They only serve to give the buyer a false impression of utility. For instance, the basket featured in the entryway of a show home or the pages of a website stylishly houses an antique letter opener and small set of keys. But in your home, it ends up home to junk mail, receipts, odd mittens and any other bits of front door clutter.

    Personally, I've used a variety of catchalls throughout my life: an old wooden crate, a crystal serving dish, pottery dishes, a big wooden bowl and some decorative boxes. The expanding containers eventually become so overwhelmed that I'm forced to stash them away in the basement. Plus, once I've tossed something in a catch-all, there's a good chance that it will never see the light of day again. Sure, catchalls might keep the junk off your floor and counter, but the concept just promotes moving a mess from one location to another, as opposed to actually dealing with it. Ultimately, this just creates a bigger mess, more stress and wasted time.

    So why would organization gurus recommend a storage system that so clearly worsens (or at best delays) the problem instead of actually solving it? I asked an organization expert to weigh in on the catchall quandary.

    "The concept of catchall containers is to collect items when you either enter the home or during a quick tidying up session," Dana H. Korey of Away With Clutter, Inc. explains. She acknowledges the key component to making a catchall basket system work is to periodically sort through it at least once a week and put items back where they belong. "If you don't, then the basket becomes a confined archaeological dig and you haven't solved any of your issues."

    Apparently, the very disciplined among us can manage a catchall storage system that is routinely edited and emptied. I learned that to optimize the usefulness of catchalls, you should assign each container a specific category, instead of tossing random items into all of them without rhyme or reason. For example, place your bills in one container, toys in another, and junk mail in a third. With multiple containers designated to specific categories, you will know where things go if you are in need of a short-term "dump" before dashing in or out.

    Ultimately, this makes cleaning and organizing easier when you actually get around to it. The caveat: you have to be disciplined enough to stick to the system.

    Maybe Dana's clients are more disciplined than myself, but I never sort until I need something -- and even then, the clutter doesn't actually get dealt with. Despite my disdain for catchalls, I've pared down my collection to a manageable few: a basket to collect keys, as well as magazine racks, toy bins, stationery baskets and other catchalls with clear designated purposes. But I've abandoned the catchalls that were accumulating random things and giving me an excuse to postpone actually organizing items.

    Want to get rid of clutter in your home and save time? Here's my golden rule: handle everything once, and only once. This means you don't stack papers in a basket for sorting later. Instead, sort and file as soon as they come into the house.

    What are your feelings about catchall containers? Let us know in the comments below.

    And for more about clutter control, check out this short video:



    SEE ALSO:
    Magic Tricks of Professional Organizers
    12 Ideas for Organizing with Baskets [HGTV]
    Organizing Tip: Use Baskets [Apartment Therapy]

     

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    Increase indoor air moisture and lower your heating bills with a humidifier.

    humidifiersDry winter air can batter your home and health. Boost moisture with a humidifier. Mek22, Flickr

    Suffering from cracked skin and dryness in your nose and throat? Blame your environment.

    Winter air holds less moisture than the warm air of spring and summer. Increasing the temperature on your thermostat may feel like the wise move to stay toasty, but it's actually making already dry air worse by sucking out any existing moisture.

    humidifiers, sore throatDry, scratchy throats in the winter can be caused low humidity in the air. Photo: Corbis

    Dry air causes a lot of things we associate with winter: static electricity, chapped lips, sore throats, dry skin, increased susceptibility to colds and irritation to those who suffer from asthma. Also, wood floors, indoor paint and electronics can sustain damage from low humidity levels. So if you find yourself doubling up on lotion and lip balm, using an inordinate amount of Static Guard and popping throat lozenges like candy, it's time to replace the lost humidity in your home by adding a humidifier.

    Humidifiers are devices that use water vapor to increase moisture levels in the air and remove airborne allergens and dust. And because humidity holds heat, using humidifiers in your home can increase the temperature inside by as much as 15 degrees.

    There are two major types of humidifiers on the market: warm mist and cool mist. Read on to know which kind is right for you.

    Warm Mist Humidifiers
    Warm mist humidifiers use electricity to boil water and produce steam. These humidifiers are very effective, but if you use them for too long the air can become stale and feel a bit muggy. Also, these devices can get hot to the touch, so take precautions when using them around small children.

    warm mist humidifiers(Left) Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier. Photo: Amazon; (Right) Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer. Photo: Walgreens

    There are two main types of warm mist humidifiers: warm mist and steam vaporizers.

    - Warm mist: These units use a heating element that heats the water before evaporating it into the air. Before it's released, the humidifier cools the steam slightly so that it doesn't come out extremely hot.

    - Steam vaporizers: These devices boil the water, which is sent out into the air as hot steam. The boiling process helps kill any mold or bacteria. You can add medicine or aromatherapy to these humidifiers, and create a warm, humid environment to keep noses and chests clear at night. Steam vaporizers do not cool the air at all before it is released, so they can become extremely hot.

    Cool Mist Humidifiers
    Vapor from the machine is not heated, so there is no risk for burning, making them ideal for use children's rooms. There are three different types of cool mist humidifiers: evaporation wick/evaporative, impeller and ultrasonic.

    cool mist humidifiers(Clockwise from left) Multi-room Cool Mist Evaporative Humidifier. Photo: Humidifiers.com; Sunbeam Health Impeller Humidifier. Photo: Sears; Crane Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier. Photo: Bed Bath & Beyond

    - Evaporative wick/evaporative: These humidifiers use a fan to blow out cool evaporated water that gets absorbed through a wick or filter. These humidifiers self-regulate -- when the moisture in the air increases, the rate at which the humidifier releases more mist is slowed. A drawback to cool-mist humidifiers is that the fan can become noisy and make it difficult to sleep when running it through the night. Evaporative humidifiers are fairly affordable.

    - Impeller: Impellers use a rotating disk in the water to create mist, which is slightly less noisy than the evaporative fan.

    - Ultrasonic: These humidifiers use sound waves or vibrations to create water droplets, so they are the quietest of the three cool mist options. These tend to be the most expensive of the three.

    Concerns about Humidifiers
    There is such a thing as too much humidity, which can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Keep indoor humidity levels in the range of 35 to 55 percent or so; anything above 60 percent is to high and anything under 30 percent is too dry. Opt for a humidifier that has a built-in humidistat, which is basically a thermostat for humidity. Alternatively, you can buy one for your home. Also, don't keep your humidifiers running all day and night. Turn them down or off, and use a dehumidifier if levels get too high, especially during the summer.

    And finally, it is very important to clean humidifier frequently to prevent dormant water from turning into a pool of bacteria, mold and mildew. Therefore, while a tad inconvenient, to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning which usually entails washing on a daily basis with soap and water.

    SEE ALSO:
    Lower Your Home Eating Bills
    Controlling Humidity Levels at Home [Re-nest]
    The Best Humidifiers [Switch]

     

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    Gargling? We're so over it. Our resident household guru introduces some refreshing mouthwash uses for the house.

    Antiseptic mouthwash is designed to kill germs in your mouth and keep your teeth clean. It's those very properties that make mouthwash a perfect cleaner and disinfectant for other surfaces in your home too. So grab a bottle of Listerine and try these eight ideas for yourself!

    Disinfect your toothbrush.
    Wash your toothbrush with some antiseptic mouthwash every couple of days to ensure there is no lingering bacteria that could make you sick!

    Clean the toilet.
    All you need is half a cup of mouthwash. Just pour it in the toilet, swish it around with a toilet brush and flush! It'll kill the germs and shine the bowl in one fell swoop.

    Clean grout and inhibit mold growth.
    Dip an old toothbrush dipped in mouthwash to clean grout. It's also strong enough to cut easily through hard water stains and build-up. Just make sure you label that toothbrush for cleaning only!

    Shine mirrors and handles.
    Use a little on a lint free cloth to shine up mirrors and disinfect medicine cabinet handles, doorknobs, faucets and flush levers.

    Clean television and computer screens.
    A little alcohol based antiseptic mouthwash will clean dirt, grease and fingerprints off of those surfaces in short order.

    Remove bacteria from laundry.
    Add a cup of mouthwash to each load of laundry along with your detergent to kill those unwanted germs.

    Banish a blemish.
    Use a cotton swab to dab some mouthwash on the area, it'll kill the bacteria and clear up the blemish.

    Disinfect a cut or scrape.
    In the absence of antiseptic wipes or creams, mouthwash will clean and disinfect injuries in one step!

    Tip: All of these tactics should only be attempted with a sugar-free, alcohol-based antiseptic mouthwash. At a few bucks a bottle, you can't go wrong!

    For more household tips, head over to my website, Mrs. FIXIT.

     

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